What an ancient proverb taught me about walking and thinking after every meal.
By Brad Beckstrom
There is an ancient Chinese proverb that goes: “take 100 steps after every meal and live to 100.” That’s not an exact translation but it just flows better. There’s also an ancient Indian term Shatapawali. The word is a compound from shata meaning “hundred” and paaul which means “step”, this refers to an age-old Indian custom of taking a stroll after a meal. It’s interesting that, like the Chinese proverb, they also mention 100 steps.
I’d like to think that 100 steps is a good starting point because most people could do that in about 1 minute. The key idea here is that once you take 100 steps there is a very good chance you’ll keep going. You’re creating a habit and a trigger to make it a permanent habit.
Just like an old roommate used to say “my goal for today is to walk to the stop sign at the end of the street and back.” You need to start somewhere. He was in his 20s at the time. I’m hoping that he kept up with the habit and maybe started walking a little further.
I’ve always been one of those people who vanished around lunchtime. It’s not that I was antisocial, it’s that I wanted to spend at least 30 minutes walking after I finished eating. When I worked in an office, I’d often accomplish this by picking a restaurant that was at least a 15 to 20 minute walk. Then I’d usually take the long way back. The meal would be usually the shortest part of the whole process, generally I was gone for about an hour.
These days I make my own lunch and eat a lot slower. Then I’ll take a one-hour hike after lunch. Of all of the benefits from working at home, hiking is probably the one that has the most physical and mental health benefits. I often use these walks for different things. Shorter walks are just to clear my head but more often than not I am listening to an audiobook or a podcast. As an added benefit, if you have a health app on your smartphone, it’s most likely tracking your steps while you listen to audio content. On iPhone or Android just search health.
Multitasking with your left foot and your right brain
I think one of the biggest differences between now and back when I started my lunchtime walks is the availability of high quality free audio content. I follow about 10 podcasts using Apple’s podcast app. Most of these podcasts are publishing 30 minute to an hour-long shows every week. That’s more than I could ever listen to so I just quickly scroll through and look for interesting topics just before heading out for a walk.
A few of the podcasts that I enjoy are Choose FI, The James Altucher Show, The Tim Ferriss Show, and The Unmistakable Creative. Audible also includes free monthly podcast style content for members.
Many local libraries have added apps like Overdrive and Libby that allow you to download audiobooks and eBooks for free. Due to licensing issues, some popular books have long wait times. I’ve found it’s best to just place holds in the app for a wishlist of books you’d like to read and when they become available the app will notify you. You can download them at home before you set out on your hike so you won’t incur any data charges for big files.
Some of these books, like Winter of The World by Ken Follett, are almost 32 hours long. That’ll get you through quite a few walks while your wish list is filling up. Like a lot of long books, it may be tough to get through but you’ll find it’ll fly by on a hike. Before you know it, you’ll be loading up on David Foster Wallace and Tom Wolfe.
Walking after Eating
My wife Kelly and I also like to take a walk with the dog after dinner. It serves as a great time to talk and catch up on things. (phones off) This is generally shorter, about a mile. On the weekends ,my son Peter and I take the dog for a long walk down to the dog park. I know our dog Finn looks forward to these walks as he generally will start dancing when he sees the leash come out on Saturdays.
Everybody’s schedule is different but if you just shoot for those hundred steps after every meal, you’ll find you can get them done and a lot more. The key is to just start and work on making it a habit.
All the benefits
- Walking aids digestion. This happens through stimulation of gastric juices and enzymes leading to less gas and indigestion.
- Walking after meals boosts metabolism. Even light exercise stimulates the metabolic process and influences the functioning of other organs in the body.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Even a 15 minute walk after dinner has been shown to improve overall health and is one of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy weight.
- Induces sleep. Eating before going to bed and poor digestion can often impact the quality of your sleep. By taking a short walk, you’re stimulating proper digestion, allowing you to relieve stress and get a better night’s sleep.
- Ancient proverbs usually have some element of truth to them,
It’s often been said that it’s impossible to efficiently multitask. I think that’s true but they’re primarily talking about mental tasks. It’s actually pretty easy to learn something while you’re on a long walk or a hike in the woods. Just start with your left foot and your right brain.
Where do I hear about all this stuff? While I’m walking of course.